Inside Objecting

Some ado about somethings

Month: November, 2012

General Labels

No, General Labels isn’t yet another General wrapped up in the Pentagon sex scandal.

I was listening to a program today, recording a few weeks ago before the election, on the differences in thinking between folks from “Red” states vs “Blue States”. While there are many substantive issues that separate these people, they have one major thing in common.

They generalize and label the others as “out of touch”, or “not open minded”, or in a strange corner case, both sides compare the others to Nazis. Now, neither of them are Nazis, of course. But the similarity in both sides is that they don’t want to think about the substantive and quantifiable differences. Rather they label the other side and in this generalizing and labelling can keep the people at an arm’s length and not have to even consider their positions.

Why is this ok to do? or better yet, why do thinking, reasoning people think that this is ok? Do they not realize what they are doing?

I was helping someone I work with recently with some email communications with another party that they needed to forward some things to that were being transitioned from one group to another. The receiving party was struggling with what they were getting. Not understanding what was expected or needed and getting frustrated. When it came down to it, it was because the person sending it was including instructions – orders, if you will – on *what* was to be done with them. I’m sure the sending party did this to be helpful – but it wasn’t. So, I counselled them to refrain from using any verbs in the email. So, send the information, give some context and background, but refrain from telling people what to do.

In thinking about the Red state/Blue state issue, when you hear people being described by the verb “to be” – as in Liberals ARE this that or the other – or Conservatives ARE something or another. Then this is a generization and these should be shunned in any form of communication. Generalizations of this sort are bad. And that’s the truth.

Reaching across the aisle

When we say that we want politicians who can reach across the aisle, what do we really mean?

Reach across the aisle and do what?

I think perhaps this second question is the one that gets asked with the least frequency. Not even to ourselves so that we don’t even really understand what we mean by this expression of bi-partisanship.

In thinking about this I think what some people think reaching across the aisle means is that you have strong skills in reaching out to your political opponents and convincing them of *your* position. Meaning you have strong skills in persuasion.

What I think some people *don’t* think this means is that you reach across the aisle and in the spirit of give-and-take you meet your opponent somewhere in the middle. Thus you will agree to positions that you don’t normally agree to in the process of getting your opponent to agree to positions that they don’t normally agree to. Neither of you get all of what you want – and some of what you end up you don’t like- but you have reached across the aisle and met them in the middle.

What happens, I think, is that people think that they want this to happen until their leader agrees to something in the spirit of bi-partisanship that violates one of their own litmus tests. Perhaps abortion (pro-choice or anti-abortion) is your own litmus test. You are “for” your politician reaching across the aisle as long as they don’t violate your position on abortion – then it is very *not* OK. It is ok to reach across the aisle to try to convince your opponent to agree with your position – but it is not OK to meet them half way. There is no halfway in abortion – or whatever the issue might be.

What happens then is that politicians are less likely to reach across the aisle because in doing so they will violate *someone’s* litmus test and then they will have a bunch of negative ads or be accused of a being a flip-flopper or not a true conservative (or liberal).

I don’t really see the spirit of our congress getting to be more bi-partisan until we stop penalizing them for doing so.